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Hi, Castle is the handle, and welcome to my blog. Here, you'll find me talking about the awesomeness of everything that is awesome, namely myself. I'll sprinkle a little somethin' about games and other nerdy crap from time to time—probably. I can't make any promises. Hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoy writing!
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Out of the twenty-six years I've been on this planet, I have been gaming for about twenty-two of them, and I still cannot stomach an entire playthrough of the first Final Fantasy game. I know, I know! No one's more disappointed about that fact than myself, but it's a truth I just can't avoid.

At first, I thought there was something wrong with me. Certainly I must not have been the huge FF fan I thought I was if I couldn't sit through the game that freakin' started it all for more than a few hours. Was it the graphics? Nah. I'm a retro gamer, after all. Was it the gameplay? Nope. The system is solid. In fact, the system is something I cream over as a retro gamer.

Then it hit me: it was the story. It's so...bland. By no fault of its own, of course.

See, back in the '80s a game that actually featured storytelling was, for the most part, uncommon. One of the reasons for this was the technology developers had at their disposal at the time. So when it came to developing a game like, say, Final Fantasy, the developers had to decide how much "power" was going toward telling the story, and how much of it was going toward actual gameplay.

Well, firstly, these were video games, so gameplay obviously took precedence—which is great.

However, I grew up in a time (hooray '90s!) when storytelling in RPGs was a bit more complex. Plots put on more weight, and characters were actually given personalities, and, sometimes—*GASP!*—talked. Sure, developers were working with much better equipment around this time, but the fact remains: RPGs had gotten better. Much better.

What frustrates me most about FF1 is that it's been remade about 3 million times, and every single one maintains the original's bland, 4th grader level storytelling. None of them hold up! Sure, the ports have fleshed out the dialog a tad, and added these great looking FMVs, but it's still the same old game. You'd think since Square is so quick to pour money into these remakes and compilations or whatever, they would retell the story that got 'em started[*] in richer detail.

Perhaps if I had gotten my hands on the game way back in 1990 I would be singing a different tune. Or perhaps my six-year-old self, who was more interested in platformers than anything else, simply wouldn't give a shit and continue playing Mario 3.

I think I am old enough to understand how technically important Final Fantasy was in practically setting the standard for how most RPGs are made today; however, I think I'm too young to appreciate the actual game itself.

A question for my fellow retro gamers: are there games out there that are "too old" for you to get into?

[*] I am well aware that Square Co. was around before the FF franchise.

I had no idea that it would be Dave Jaffe, but I knew about thirty seconds into Burch's latest Rev Rant that someone from the industry was going to respond, and that the response wasn't going to be particularly pleasant, either. And let me tell you, it was hilarious.

Not because he was going after Burch, mind you. I agree with most of what Anthony Burch said in his latest video despite my stance on the "Games Are Art" debate. I thought it was hilarious because I don't think Jaffe watched the entire video. To me, it seemed like he might have watched the first thirty seconds of it, paused it, and said "One of these guys again, huh?"

And if he did watch the entire Rev Rant, I'm guessing that he kind of tuned it out and heard some of what Anthony said in spurts, bringing about some kind of misunderstanding. Because like Anthony said in his response, it looked like they were agreeing on everything, and disagreeing on everything not discussed in the Rant.

Also, I'm willing to bet that the majority of the people that disagree with the Rant are focusing on Anthony's use of the word "fun." I don't think Burch is suggesting that creating a game isn't fun, but rather a game that doesn't focus on a specific kind of fun. Because I'm sure Burch himself wouldn't fucking bother playing a game that he didn't find at least entertaining, which is the point of a game in the first place.

I think if Jaffe didn't shut his brain down thirty seconds into the video and listened to what Burch had to say, he wouldn't make comments like "simply a poser" on his Twitter.

And yes, I views on games being an artistic medium still stands. I still don't buy it, kind of. I'm still on the "self expression" definition of it all. But then, people's interpretation of art is different, and who am I to say what is art and what isn't, right? (RAMBLE ALERT).

Anyway. I'm siding with Anthony on this one.

Also, kudos to Anthony for not making his response an inflammatory one.



Sidenote: Since Jaffe keeps screaming "Show me! Show me!" on his Twitter, I urge developers to fucking show Jaffe. Present an idea to him that shows him that it's possible. Try it, I say! Or the terrorists win!

For as long as I can remember, I have read and heard gaming journalists and designers or what-have-you talk about how they strive to make it so the world takes the gaming community seriously. They want to let the world know that the world of games isn't just for nine-year-old little Timmy, but for people of all ages. They want to show that games can be considered works of art, and not just mindless, life-wasting entertainment.Well, you know what I say?

[Takes a manly swig of Barq's root beer.] Who fucking gives a shit?

Who gives a damn whether or not the rest of the world takes the culture seriously? I think the true question is: why should the rest of the world take us serious in the first place? I personally don't care if someone thinks me "immature" or "uneducated" for playing video games. That person is usually an uptight douchebag not worth associating with in the first place. Those assholes can kiss the fattest part of my ass.

I guess another question is: what do these "culture champions" want everyone to take seriously? Do they wish everyone to take games as serious works of art? Or do they want people to stop calling them losers for spending the better part of the day fragging newbs or leveling up their Blood Elf? Or both? I'm inclined to think that it's both, but my common sense tells me that it may be the former. Which... I can understand, I guess. But it's like Hideo Kojima said:

"The thing is, art is something that radiates the artist, the person who creates that piece of art. If one hundred people walk by and a single person is captivated by whatever that piece radiates, it's art. But videogames aren't trying to capture one person. A videogame should make sure that all one hundred people that play that game should enjoy the service provided by that videogame. It's something of a service. It's not art. But I guess the way of providing service with that videogame is an artistic style, a form of art."

Simple and plain. When was the last time you heard a developer say some shit like "Yeah, this game is my vision. I don't care if no one plays it. I essentially made it for myself." You could argue a few Indie developers possess that mentality, but I am willing to bet that any Indie developer you know, from Pixel to Johnathan Blow, creates their games with the intention of making it enjoyable for anyone that plays it, and that the only element of their game that will radiate their artistry is the visual. (I could go on about art being what you make it, but that's what this month's Monthly Musing is for).

And sure, great, unique art and thought provoking narrative is fine and dandy. I encourage it. But it comes secondary. If I'm not having fun playing the game, it's not worth sitting in my collection.

So, enough with all the "people need to take the culture seriously," and boasting about how much money the industry is making over others. None of that bullshit matters, and no one outside of developers and publishers and fanboys in search of validation cares about that bullshit. Sit down, pop in your game, have fun, and shut the hell up.

- Castle

He killed my dog—Fenris, I named him. He killed Fenris. And I couldn't do a damn thing except watch him die, with wide, angry eyes. I kind of knew it was going to happen, to be honest. One way or another. A friendly and loyal canine companion? How could they not kill him, right? But my attachment to Fenris had let my guard down. So when I watched Fenris leap in front of Lucien's gun in an attempt to save his master, it kind of took me by surprise.

When it came time to throw down with Lucien for the first and final time, I had newfound purpose. I was no longer playing to simply beat the game and sit through a potentially underwhelming ending. I no longer played to avenge Sparrow's sibling that I barely knew and barely cared for. I played to make Lucien pay for killing my dog. Not Sparrow's dog. My dog. My love for Fenris went beyond his ability to sniff out treasure chests or bark to tell me when he'd found something of worth buried in the soil.

Fuck that. Fenris and I were a team. We were best friends. If he was scared, I cheered him up. When he found me treasure, I fed him a treat. When he mauled the hell out of a highwayman while I tended to a slew of other enemies, I told him what a good boy he was. Hell, we even entertained the people of Albion together with dancing and victory arm pumps and farting. Yes, god damn it. Farting.

And now he was dead? Lucien had to fucking pay.

Crossbow loaded and aimed for his chest, I pulled the trigger and let an arrow fly, lodging itself into Lucien's heart before he could monologue a single, meaningless word. And I watched him fall from the platform and into the abyss of The Spire with only slim satisfaction. Slim, because I didn't—couldn't end him in the fashion I truly desired. I wanted to destroy him. I wanted slice him, maim him, set him on fire. I wanted his pain to last more than the few moments he endured before his body reached the bottom of The Spire.

When Theresa presented me with a choice to ressurect those who died constructing the Spire, to ressurect my beloved Fenris, or to take vast riches as my reward, I did what any "truehero" would have done, and opted for the first choice. It was the hero thing to do... the 'right' thing to do.

When I reappeared in Oakfield, Fenris not by my side, I felt naked... incomplete... angry. I'd saved the world, ressurected millions and reunited them with their loved ones, and all I had to show for it was a "Thank You" letter. If there had been a way to trash that damned letter, I would have. My dog was dead. My best friend was dead. And since I felt robbed of my vengeance during my 'fight' with Lucien, Albion would receive punishment in his stead. Did I go around slaughtering innocent people all willy nilly? No... that would have been too easy. The people of Albion were to live under the dark, oppressive cloud that I was forced to live under since the death of my partner.

I took up a bartending job in Bloodstone. Did an excellent job. Got promoted four times, and made an exceptional amount of money. 300,000 gold pieces, in fact. I took that money, and bought every property in Bloodstone. But that wasn't enough. I didn't just want Bloodstone. I wanted Albion. I spent the next few days earning money and buying up businesses and housing, increasing rent by as much as 70%, and marking up stall merchandise as far up as 80%. And the people hated me for it, but could do a damn thing about it. If they had something negative to say, they were killed. I was their hero, God damn it. Soon to be their King. There was no way I was going to allow such ungratefulness. Especially in my face.

Before long, my actions... my corruption... it began shifting my appearance. Gradually, my stark, blue eyes began to take on a hellish, crimson glow, my skin faded into a sickening hue. I'd even begun forming horns. But I didn't care. I was acting like a monster, so it was only suitable that I looked like one, perhaps.

Soon enough, I had enough money to purchase the castle in which my sister and I had been murdered. Fairfax Castle. My new butler greeted me, amazingly unphased by my horrific appearance. I gave myself a tour of the place. Roamed the halls. Meandered in the room in which Lucien had thought he'd killed me. And finally, the throne room. I walked slowly, silently along the stretch of royal red carpet that led up to my throne, the new symbol of my iron clasp tyranny, and stopped half-way.

I had infinite wealth. Had killed countless. Was feared by all.

But Fenris was still dead.

And suddenly... it all meant nothing.

It's funny. Because when I first popped in Fable II, I expected it to suck like an eager collegiate whore. And to be frank, I really wasn't all that engaged with the game's story until my—Sparrow's dog was killed. In that moment, the game suddenly came to life. The world became tangible. The people I killed suddenly had feelings, memories. The hatred they showed me as I walked the streets felt real and offensive. Cliché, I know, but the game kind of made me feel like a kid again. I hadn't immersed myself like that within a game in a long, long time.

Games are pretty amazing, huh?

8:27 AM on 07.16.2009

If you follow Left 4 Dead news like I do, you know about douchebag blogger Willie Jefferson, who apparently has nothing of real interest or merit write about in order to generate page views, and his recent douchebag article on racism in video games. In the article, he criticizes forthcoming Valve title Left 4 Dead 2 for its racism, due to having 'several black zombies'. Because, apparently, there are no black people in New Orleans. Go figure. Guess Hurricane Katrina wiped 'em all out, huh? But hey, enough digression.

While I believe that Left 4 Dead does contain racism, it is not for the same reasons Jefferson noted in his blog. The racism in the Left 4 Dead games lies not within its gameplay or story, but within some of its players. Its crackbrained, ignorant, insecure players. With headsets.

When it comes to L4D 2, I am one of the minority that got excited about it (I'm black, too, so that makes me a double minority... or Minority Prime). But I have to keep it 100 with you guys; discovering that the game would take place in New Orleans made me a little queasy. Why? Well, for one, black folks make up a large part of New Orleans' population, which leads me to my second point. The racism that I encounter in the current Left 4 Dead is already ridiculous (I have seen people kill Louis just so that there "wouldn't be a n***er on their team"), and I knew full well that giving these idiots the chance to kill a bunch of black folks was going to make it even worse on my ears. So you know I almost had an ulcer when I heard about two of the four playable characters being black. You should have heard some of the comments I've heard people say about it while playing a L4D campaign. "I wanna buy L4D 2, but it's full of n***ers." But hey, now that I think about it, it might keep those kinds of idiots offended by an abundance of dark skinned people at bay.

But even if it doesn't... should I get mad and never play again? No. I'm the kind of guy that believes that going up in arms over someone calling me something disrespectful means letting the terrorists win (take that Osama). That, and the fact that if Left 4 Dead, 1 or 2, had zero black folks in it, the racism would still be there. I'd still hear the N-word getting spammed every ten seconds by a fourteen year old sore loser. I'd still get kicked out of games due to the color of my avatar's skin—strange, I know. Especially in 2009. But it happens. As a black gamer—as a black MAN—I have come to grips with the fact that racism is just a part of certain people. And always will be. So, I either suck it up and perhaps do something about it, or whine every time I see a confederate flag or a couple of black people get killed in a video game.

Jefferson needs to be thankful for Left 4 Dead to be honest. Valve could have portrayed us as really bad stereotypes in their new playable characters, but they haven't from what I've seen. They could have had black zombies swaggering down the street with 40s in their hands instead of attacking the Survivors like everyone else. And what the hell is he doing playing Call of Juarez anyway? The game sucks.

Also, an interesting sidenote. When I first played L4D, one of the first things I said was: "Oh, so there ain't no black zombies in this city?"

Didya miss me? Huh, bitch? Well, I missed you, too. Been a little busy with... life. But I am back, now. So you all can rejoice and revel in my awesomeness. Finished? Okay, let's get on with it. The topic at hand? The new Metal Gear Solid game revealed just recently at E3, Metal Gear Solid: Rising.

I am a huge Hideo Kojima fan. I love that guy. I love his games. I believe he's a genius as far as game designing goes, and that no one else in the world trumps him in that field.* I've never been disappointed in his work. From Snatcher to Zone of the Enders to Metal Gear. I think his games are just that awesome. So naturally I became giddy as a school girl once I saw countdown on the Konami website for a mysterious game that was to be revealed at E3. And then the giddiness game to a halt once I saw Big Boss' stern visage appear on the screen...

"Great," I thought, "another Metal Gear game." I consider myself to be a massive Metal Gear fanboy, but... I was under the impression that Metal Gear Solid 4 would be the last Metal Gear game (produced by him, anyway), and so that countdown had me revved up for something else. Somthing other than Metal Gear. Maybe a new Zone of the Enders game. Or hell, a new game entirely. One of the things that attracted me to Kojima's games is his innovation and style. He had me at Metal Gear, but he stole my soul with Zone of the Enders. That game was fantastic. Short, but fantastic. And it made me wonder just what other kind of games Kojima could create if he were given the opportunity.

I'm still going to pick this game up, though. I mean, it's going to feature my second favorite character in the series, Raiden (that's right, I was a fuckin' Raiden fan before the cyborg bullshit. Hell, I haven't even played MGS4 yet). I know the game is going to be good. I know it's going to make my peepee harder than solving chinese trigonometry with an abacus. But I was hoping for something different. Something outside of what I was used to.

I'm sure a lot of Kojima fans (the fans that didn't send Kojima death threats that is) feel the same as I do. But hey... maybe something else is happening with the franchise. The new tagline for the game is "Lightning Bolt Action." Now, that means either they're yanking the game out of its stealth roots and taking an action/adventure approach (a la Devil May Cry or something of the like), or it's just a neat tagline for a new game. *Shrug* Who knows, right? We'll see when we actually get some more news on it.

* Note: this is just an opinion of mine. So please, don't bite my head off in the comments talking about how much of an asshole I am. This means you Miyamoto fanboys. Hope you've enjoyed reading. Peace.